A Different Kind of Holiday Giving
About 63.8 million people did volunteer work at some point last year. Were you one of them? Volunteering your time and talent has never been easier with advanced technologies and flexible volunteer schedules. Recent studies also indicate that children and families who volunteer together have better relationships, succeed in school, are healthier, deal better with difficult situations and build positive self esteems.
How Children Can Make a Difference: One year after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, 13-year-old Mischa Zimmerman established a nonprofit organization, Kids Helping Kids, to provide support to children affected by a catastrophic illness or injury. Today this group provides gifts to children in hospitals, raises money to build wheel chair ramps and participates in hospital visits and events.
When eleven-year-old Jon Wagner-Holtz’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer he couldn’t find a support group for kids with sick parents so he started his own – Kids Connected. The organization now has programs across the U.S., a 24-hour hotline, an e-mail newsletter, monthly meetings and summer camps for kids.
After reading an article about a police dog that had been shot on the job, eleven-year-old Stacey Hillman started Pennies to Protect Police Dogs. Over the past two years they have raised over $100,000 and outfitted over 158 K-9 dogs with bulletproof vests.
Despite their hardships these kids reached out to help others through volunteering – all at an early age. Numerous studies indicate that children who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate, vote and be philanthropic. By volunteering just one hour a week kids are 50% less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or engage in destructive behavior. (Search Institute)
Finding the Time to Volunteer: One of the most common reasons for not volunteering is a lack of time. I recently came across a book of poetry that was given to me by an elderly couple that I volunteered my time with years ago. Looking back I don’t know where I found the time with a full-time job and graduate work. But I am grateful I did because of the things I learned from them. That couple has since passed away but the book of Emerson’s poetry and my memories are still with me.
If you can find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you – your time will be well spent and rewarding. To quote Emerson – “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
To make the best use of your time with volunteering start by asking yourself – What issues matter to you most? Do you have special skills or talents to pass along? Are their areas you’d like to learn more about? Do you want to volunteer with an on-going project or something short term? Is the location right for you? And most importantly what you’re your reasons for volunteering?